Less than two weeks left until the Chiefs step onto the field for their first regular season game, Chiefs fans once again have very high expectations for their team.
Having made the playoffs three out of the last five seasons and coming off their best record in that five-year span at 12-4, these expectations seem fair.
However, Chiefs fans shouldn’t get too comfortable. The schedule, on first look, proves how much harder this season will be for them.
Half of the scheduled games that will be definite challenges are against in-conference opponents (a more detailed breakdown of the AFC West can be found here). But, the elephant in the room is actually outside of their conference.
In their first game of the regular season, the Chiefs find themselves matched up against the New England Patriots, who won last year's Super Bowl and had a league-best 14-2 regular season record. The Chiefs haven't won at Gillette stadium since 1990. During week six, they bump up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team with one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The Steelers crushed the Chiefs last year 43-14 in the regular season and 18-16 in the playoffs.
The next week, they’ll face a healthy Derek Carr and an Oakland Raiders team looking to avenge a wasted 12-4 finish in the 2016 season.
Week nine has them playing the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys achieved the second-best record last year, with a returning Ezekiel Elliott looking to run roughshod over the NFL again.
And after a bye week, they’ll have to fly to New York to take on the New York Giants, who won 11 games in the 2016 season. The final definite challenge for the Chiefs will be playing the Denver Broncos in week 17 following a week 14 bout with the Raiders.
The only in-conference game that will likely be a challenge would be their week eight matchup against Denver at Arrowhead Stadium. Outside of their conference, the Chiefs find three different teams who will likely give them a run for their money.
In week four, the Redskins come in town with their improved offense (Terrelle Pryor will improve their offense tremendously) looking to build on a promising 2016 season. Then, the Chiefs head off to Texas for a week five matchup with the Texans, who the Chiefs lost to last season 19-12.
In week 16, the Chiefs will play the Dolphins, another team looking to turn a promising 2016 season into something more with a healthier offensive line.
The Chargers are the final in-conference team to mention, and with the expected growth of young players, an old quarterback, a new home and an incredibly inconsistent 2016 season in their pocket, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to expect of them.
The other team that I consider boom or bust would be the Eagles, who added star-talent-but-oft-injured Alshon Jeffery to their receiving core. Depending on Carson Wentz and his play, they could either terrorize the Chiefs or fall flat on their faces.
The Chiefs only have two games that are unlikely losses, and they come in weeks 12 and 13 against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. The Bills responded to a mediocre 2016 season by trading away their star receiver for nothing and losing a ton of players. This is while the Jets were just plain awful last year and are unlikely to make a huge amount of improvement in the coming season.
The Chiefs are projected to have the second-toughest schedule in 2017 at a .576 opponent-winning percentage after a 2016 season in which they were projected to have the 16th hardest schedule at only .496.
While the Chiefs are certainly a very talented team with room to grow, it looks as if they will be facing their toughest road to the playoffs in the last five years.
Record Prediction: 11-5